SPARTA — If he feels the pressure of his lineage, his own past success or even that iconic numeral on the side of his Chevrolet, Ty Dillon has become a master at not letting on.
The 22-year-old NASCAR Nationwide Series driver likes the methodical approach, both in his career trajectory and in how he approaches the never-ending challenges in his path.
Waiting until he felt he was ready has served Dillon well. Thus, he should be heeded when he declares his team is poised to be a threat to get up front and stay there for the remainder of the season.
A year ago, Dillon proved to the masses and himself that he could topple the best drivers in NASCAR when he overtook Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Busch with 26 laps to go and then held off former Cup Champion Brad Keselowski to win the Camping World Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway.
Dillon hopes the Sparta tri-oval provides another jumping-off point to a next-level breakthrough. Heading into Friday's 300-mile Nationwide race, he's fourth in the points standings in this his first full season in the series.
As the grandson of team owner Richard Childress, some would claim NASCAR success was a birthright for Dillon and his brother, former Nationwide Series champion and current Cup driver Austin Dillon.
However, both brothers have taken pains to come up through the ranks of NASCAR's circuits rather than accelerate before their skills had legitimately progressed. After two full seasons in the Truck Series that featured three wins, a Rookie of the Year title (2012) and runner-up in the standings in 2013, Ty Dillon has posted 10 top-10 efforts in 14 Nationwide outings heading into Friday and believes he has a true feel for his No. 3 Chevrolet.
"It's been tough, it's just been a lot of change," Dillon said. "I ran quite a few (Nationwide) races when I was in the Truck Series but I went through three different crew chiefs and then to start off this year I had a brand new crew chief and a new team.
"I haven't had a whole lot of familiarity but now that we're getting a few races into the season, me and (crew chief) Danny Stockman are starting to hit it and finding things that are making our cars better week in and week out. We feel like we have the opportunity to run up front and really compete for a win for the first time this year."
Dillon has become accustomed to having to silence talk of nepotism with his actions. It was literally in his face after the Truck race at Martinsville last season when Cup regular and now former RCR teammate Kevin Harvick railed against the younger Dillon brother after the two collided during the race, implying he only gained his ride because of his family.
All that is why moments like his burnout at Kentucky last year resonate. It wasn't just that he prevailed, it was who he defeated that day that gave him the confidence that he and his brother can be on the same level sooner rather than later.
"Hopefully it breeds into another win here," Dillon said. "Taking the confidence that I was able to beat Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski and all the guys in the Truck Series that day ... it kind of helped me unloading here today knowing I had the confidence that I can get around this place and get into Victory Lane against the best guys in this sport."
Transmission problems stymied Dillon and his team at Road America last weekend. However, the RCR team as a whole has been on the upswing with teammate Brendan Gaughan scoring an emotional win at Road America and Cup regular Paul Menard winning for Childress on June 14 at Michigan.
"Last week wasn't a good week for us but I think everything with RCR's Nationwide program is heading the right direction as you can tell," Dillon said. "I think Kentucky Speedway is going to be another great track for us. The main thing for me is I just want to win races. That's all I care about. The points will come. And I think we're heading in that direction."
Nationwide Series update
Feb. 22 — DRIVE4COPD 300, Daytona Beach, Fla. (Regan Smith)
March 1 — Blue Jeans Go Green 200, Avondale, Ariz. (Kyle Busch)
March 8 — Boyd Gaming 300, Las Vegas (Brad Keselowski)
March 15 — Drive To Stop Diabetes 300, Bristol, Tenn. (Kyle Busch)
March 22 — TreatMyClot.com 300, Fontana, Calif. (Kyle Larson)
April 4 — O'Reilly Auto Parts 300, Fort Worth, Texas (Chase Elliott)
April 11 — VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200, Darlington, S.C. (Chase Elliott)
April 25 — ToyotaCare 250, Richmond, Va. (Kevin Harvick)
May 3 — Aaron's 312, Talladega, Ala. (Elliott Sadler)
May 18 — Get to Know Newton 250, Newton, Iowa (Sam Hornish Jr.)
May 24 — History 300, Concord, N.C. (Kyle Larson)
May 31 — Buckle Up 200, Dover, Del. (Kyle Busch)
June 14 — Ollie's Bargain Outlet 250, Brooklyn, Mich. (Paul Menard)
June 21 — Gardner Denver 200, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Brendan Gaughan)
June 27 — John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300, Sparta, Ky.
July 4 — Subway Firecracker 250, Daytona Beach, Fla.
July 12 — New England 200, Loudon, N.H.
July 19 — EnjoyIllinois.com 300, Joliet, Ill.
July 26 — Indiana 250, Indianapolis
Aug. 2 — U.S. Cellular 250, Newton, Iowa
Aug. 9 — Zippo 200, Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Aug. 16 — Nationwide Children's Hospital 200, Lexington, Ohio
Aug. 22 — Food City 250, Bristol, Tenn.
Aug. 30 — Great Clips 300, Hampton, Ga.
Sept. 5 — Virginia 529 College Savings 250, Richmond, Va.
Sept. 13 — Jimmy John's Freaky Fast 300, Joliet, Ill.
Sept. 20 — VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300, Sparta, Ky.
Sept. 27 — Dover 200, Dover, Del.
Oct. 4 — Kansas Lottery 300, Kansas City, Kan.
Oct. 10 — Charlotte 300, Concord, N.C.
Nov. 1 — O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, Fort Worth, Texas
Nov. 8 — Phoenix 200, Avondale, Ariz.
Nov. 15 — Ford EcoBoost 300, Homestead, Fla.
1. Regan Smith 51611. Ryan Reed 356
2. Elliott Sadler 50612. Mike Bliss 344
3. Chase Elliott 50513. Dylan Kwasniewski334
4. Ty Dillon 47514. Dakoda Armstrong 333
5. Brian Scott 45815. Jeremy Clements 298
6. Trevor Bayne 45316. J.J. Yeley 275
7. Brendan Gaughan41017. Jeffrey Earnhardt266
8. Chris Buescher 38818. Joey Gase 235
9. James Buescher 38819. Ryan Sieg 227
10. Landon Cassill 36820. Eric McClure 227